Mosaic Art

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When I first spotted this craft idea online, the suggestion was to draw a picture and then cut into squares before gluing down to form a mosaic. It turns out Travis didn’t want to draw his own picture… but he did love making a mosaic from an existing Star Wars picture!

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I drew a grid on the page he selected and Travis loved cutting along the lines until we had 30 or so small squares.

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Note: It’s helpful to label these on the backside so that the mosaic comes together without frustration.

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We selected green construction paper as the background and then began gluing down the squares, leaving some green showing on all sides. This is also a great lesson in counting for kindergartners. Travis loved seeing the battle droids take shape again.

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At the end, we had a fun piece of mosaic artwork.

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Make Your Own Soccer Ball

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After reading about homemade soccer balls used by kids the world over, specifically in Zimbabwe thanks to a Highlights magazine article, Travis was inspired to make his own! We sort of winged it on this one, but our little ball turned out great.

We only needed three items: a plastic bag, old newspaper, and string.

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First I helped Travis wad up newspaper and stuff into one small (3 gallon) plastic bag.

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I knotted it when about half full and pulled the bag inside out around the knot for a double layer. This was our “core.” We then repeated with a second bag and more newspaper, securing with a second knot and fold over.

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Knead with your hands into a more round shape if your ball is looking a bit oval. Now tie string around the outside. Four strings held ours tight.

Time to go play!

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Travis loved playing pass and taking shots on a goal. We were both so pleased with how well it rolled and held up.

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Next time you find yourself without a ball, don’t be daunted: make one!

Sporty Cookie Cake

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Every good game needs a sweet finish, and this giant cookie from Travis’s Game Day Raddish Kids is perfect if you’re watching sports with a crowd this fall!

First, combine 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.

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In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3/4 cup softened Earth Balance butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and 3/4 cup brown sugar. Beat until combined. Add 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon flax whisked into 3 tablespoons water) and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Beat until creamy. Watching the stand mixer is always Travis’s favorite part!

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Add the flour mixture and 1 cup vegan chocolate chips to the wet ingredients; beat until combined.

Pat the dough into a 9-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray.

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Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes; the edges should be browned and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean (as long as you don’t hit a melted chocolate chip!).

Let cool slightly. Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons plain non-dairy creamer in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, and stir until the chocolate is melted.

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Spoon the chocolate mixture into a zip-top plastic bag and snip a hole in one corner. Decorate the cake to look like your kids’ favorite sports ball.

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Travis chose a baseball!

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This dessert was declared a big winner.

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Football Math Touchdown

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This math-heavy lesson from Raddish Kids was a little tough to tailor to a kindergartner, but I appreciated the challenge, and that Raddish had us thinking about new concepts and skills. We’re excited to make more ballpark fare to go along with the learning!

The lesson begins with brainstorming a list of sports. I put white poster board up on the wall just like a teacher and gave Travis a big sports-couch-voice, “Go!” He soon had a great list.

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I told him today we would focus on football, and went through some of the facts that Raddish provided. Did you know that the first official football game was all the way back in 1869? We watched a quick overview of the rules and took a look at all the gear players have to wear.

Pause a moment and make a second chart with your child, focusing on what we learn from losing and what we learn from winning. I was proud of Travis coming up with items like, “You learn not to cheat” and “not getting upset when you lose”.

Now go over a bit of football facts and figures (6 points for a touchdown, 3 points for a field goal etc.) and set up some math problems with manipulatives. We used dried beans, and I talked Travis through three problems. First up, addition:

If the Dallas Cowboys scored 2 touchdowns and 2 extra points, how many points did they have altogether?

Travis counted out 6 beans for each touchdown, plus the extra two, then added them all up. This is a sophisticated problem for a kindergartner, and I don’t think he even realized it!

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We next did subtraction:

Last night the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the New York Jets by a score of 7 to 10. How many fewer points did the Chiefs have?

Again, manipulatives made it a cinch. He counted out each team’s score in beans, then took away 7 from the Jets pile. How many were left? “Three!” he declared.

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Finally, fractions:

If there are 4 quarters in a game and 2 have been played, how many are left?

Beans made the answer clear.

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After that big brain workout, we needed a physical one! We played two fun variations on “football” that we found online, adapting them to be a mom-and-son game instead of requiring teams. For the first, I set up a yoga mat as the end zone. His job was to get as many balls as possible into the end zone in 1 minute.

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For the second, he stood on a target (we used stacking rings) and had to catch a ball. If he caught it, he moved the target to his end zone for a point.

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We even had an adorable cheerleader on the sidelines!

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Finish up with a football read at storytime. Travis enjoyed A Running Back Can’t Always Rush, by Nate LeBoutillier

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Poster Board Puzzles

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These giant puzzles are a cinch to make and just hard enough to put together. On other words, super fun.

On a large piece of poster board, draw any puzzle picture you and your kids like. I kept one simple for Travis with a heart shape in the middle and a squiggle around the outer edge.

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He drew on the second piece of poster board, and I reminded him he’d need cues to know which pieces lined up where (and eventually added the circle in the center).

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Draw 5 or 6 big lines from the outer edge to the center; cut along these lines to make your puzzle pieces.

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Now put it all back together again! Travis was so pleased seeing his drawing line up.

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Some of the pieces neededto be turned and fiddled, and then success.

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You’ll notice that little sister Veronika loved the giant pieces of poster board and watching it all take shape! Feel free to give younger siblings a marker for scribbling, too, as long as you’re sure they’ll keep the ink on the big poster board pieces.

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I had one happy scribbler, and one proud puzzle solver!

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Geometric Refrigerator Magnets

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We now officially have tangrams all over the house, whether felt versions to make in the playroom or this handy set for the fridge!

Travis loved making the magnets. You can purchase sheets of magnetic paper at the craft store with a sticky backing on the other side. We printed out and colored tangram shapes, and simply stuck these onto the sticky side.

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Travis was fascinated with how it worked: where was the magnet? he wanted to know. How did the shapes stick?

Cut out your shapes (this was a lot of cutting for mama!) and transfer to the fridge.

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At first Travis just played with them and made up his own designs.

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For a challenge, print out a few tangram shapes and set your child loose. Bigger kids can work with just the outline; younger kids can rely on the answer code at the end of the pdf.

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Now when I hear those whines of, “Is dinner ready yet?” I set him loose to solve a tangram at the fridge. Built-in kitchen entertainment!

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Craft Stick Puzzles

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This is a fast, easy way to make a puzzle at home, much more reliable than the cereal box version Travis and I tried earlier in the week!

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Cut a pretty greeting card into strips the width of a jumbo craft stick. I drew guiding lines for Travis, who so proudly cut straight along the lines. “This is fun!” he said, before we even got to the puzzling.

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Apply a layer of mod podge to each craft stick and glue on a piece of your puzzle. Let dry completely, then apply a second layer of mod podge over the strips.

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Once dry, I numbered the craft sticks 1 through 7.

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This numbering allowed him to puzzle in two ways; the harder way was simply to put it together relying on the picture. For a little assistance, Travis only had to refer to the numbers at the bottom!

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Happy puzzling!

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Shofar for Yom Kippur

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We don’t celebrate Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar (which begins tonight and lasts until tomorrow), but there was a nice craft to commemorate the holiday in Travis’s Highlights magazine. It was a good chance to teach a little about another culture and have some crafting fun.

As some background, Travis and I learned how a shofar (traditionally made from a ram’s horn) is blown at services to signal the end of a 25-hour fasting period. The day is about repentance and atonement, and this cardstock version of the shofar can hold your child’s apologies and hopes for the year ahead.

First, I traced a horn shape on brown cardstock twice and cut out.

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Because our cardstock was quite dark, Travis chose to decorate it with glitter pens.

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Once decorated, punch two holes near the top.

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Glue one piece of cardstock to the other, making sure not to glue along the top edge so you are left with a pocket.

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Into this pocket, we slipped promises and apologies. Travis had some sincere thoughts, like promising not to be naughty at home and promising to be better at wake up time (instead of getting up on the proverbial “wrong side of the bed”). It was a good chance to practice handwriting, too!

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Slip a blue ribbon through the holes you punched in the top and hang the shofar to celebrate the holiday!

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Felt Tangrams

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Consider me a tangrams convert; these puzzles have turned out to be a fantastic way for Travis to entertain himself in those moments when I need him occupied. If you don’t want to purchase a set from the store, make a quick version from felt!

I cut out the various shapes that make up a tangram set using a different color for each shape. I free-handed the following: large triangles, small triangles, squares, trapezoids, and hexagons.

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Now simply print out pictures of tangrams and set your child to work. If the picture printed out big enough, Travis could work right on the paper.

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More of a challenge were small diagrams that he then had to design on a surface next to the paper.

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Look mom, a helicopter!

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This easy project is sure to keep hands and minds busy!


Missing Square Puzzle

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Here was a quick puzzle to do with Travis before school. Simply print out the template, color in the shapes, and cut out. Then I presented Travis with the two challenges.

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For the first, the goal is to fit the shapes into the large triangle (we made ours pink) in such a way that no shaded squares show through. This was easy, with a tiny bit of help once he had a triangle pushed against the far corner.

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We shuffled the pieces and now tried for challenge number two: to fit in the shapes so one pink square remains uncovered. This was trickier, but accomplished with some shifting around. “I did it!” Travis declared.

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Hmm, but how is it possible? It turns out the answer lies in the fact that the colored triangle isn’t actually a triangle; it curves slightly, making it a quadrilateral (too much for Travis to comprehend). What I explained to him instead is that the extra area left over in this slight curve is exactly equal to 1 shaded square.

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It certainly looked like a little before-school magic!

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